Behind starburst eyes

Buying Friendship

An article I wrote about accidently buying friendships when you’re on the Autism Spectrum:

“They say money can’t buy you happiness, but can it buy you friends? While most people know the obvious answer to that is a firm “No” Sometimes people on the spectrum have more trouble with the concept of buying friendship doesn’t work.”

You can find the rest of the article at Parents Space:
http://www.parents-space.com/health-fitness/the-autism-spectrum/buying-friendships/

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Workshop!

Informing the VillageInforming the Village:
A how to workshop on educating others about your child’s diagnosis

Offered By: Lindsey Asperger’s Autism Support
Presented By: Dawn-Marie Potter

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but how do you make sure the whole village that is involved in your child’s life is on the same page as you about how best to do that? How do you make sure they understand the vital things you know about your child so they too can have fulfilling interactions with them in ways that truly benefit your child? The answer, you teach them about your child. You show them what it means to be “John” or “Jane” Show them what helps your child, what hinders their growth, and how to help them to thrive no matter how your child is feeling at the time. Help them to understand who your child truly is, which is more than just a label, but a whole complete being that is capable of amazing things should they just be given the chance to shine.

You want to make sure every adult that will be partaking in your child’s life understands them. During the workshop we will explore multiple ways of informing and educating others about your child, their diagnosis and what exactly that means for them specifically. From brochure making, to one-on-one confernces, to cookie making (yes cookie making, there will be samples of that one for everyone attending to see how fun and yummy that method is 😉 there are so many different ways to open up and inform others. Come discover some of them with us!   

Workshop Details:
Date: May 21st 2013 Time: 7pm
Location: Upstairs meeting room of Loblaw’s located at 400 Kent Street, Lindsey

For more information on how to attend this exciting workshop please contact the LAAS:
Email: Donna: donna.thomson@sympatico.ca

or myself at dawnmusepotter@gmail.com

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Contributing Author! :-D

I am officially now a contributing author on an amazing site: Parents Space

It deals with ALL of the vast and varied issues of parenting, and I’m honored that I get to be a part of it! Please check it out, it’s got a wide variety of thought provoking articles written by insightful authors!

 

Parents Space Logo

 

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Being a step-mom sucks sometimes

There are times when being a step-mom sucks. Like the moment when I’m laughing and having a great time with my step-daughter and I realize it’s time to stop and pack her up to go to her mother’s house. The days that I have to wait to share special family activities with her because it’s not “our days” yet. I respect that she’s “not mine” but she calls me “Mum” hugs me good-night, tells me she loves me and talks to me about things that she feels are important; about her feelings and thoughts, her fears and her dreams. She regularly asks me to homeschool her (I always tell her no because that’s not a choice I’m allowed to make)
The moment when the clock strikes 6pm on the Sunday of our week-end makes me sad. If I thought all the grown-ups could actually do it I’d totally suggest a duplex so that they could roam from one part to the other as their hearts saw fit without feeling like they had to miss out on either parent, and of course selfishly then I’d get to see her more so that’d be grand to me. But realistically that wouldn’t work with the grown-ups involved, which is a pity but a reality none the less. So I just have to cherish the time I do get with her, which I totally do. 😀 It wasn’t always this fantastic between her and I, but we’ve worked hard on earning each other’s trust and respect and love. I know that even if her father and I weren’t together I’d still want to be a part of her life, and I believe she’d still want me in hers. That’s beautiful and special and I treasure the bond that she and I have built together.

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Dietary Assessment

After a hopefully not too horrible trip to a laboratory near here for blood work for my youngest I then get to monitor every single thing he ingests for 3 days. All the way down to one bite or one teaspoon. All of this is for his dietitian appointment on Friday. With his self-limited diet I am concerned about his nutritional needs not being met. To that end I asked for an appointment be set up with a dietitian, and so while honestly I don’t really look forward to the blood work portion of tomorrow, nor to remembering to jot it down if I do get a bit of food finally into him I do look forward to the results from the appointment and of course the solutions that can be obtained from such an appointment. While I’d LOVE it if he ate healthily on a regular basis, with his texture issues that is not going to happen right now. So instead I simply wish to find out if Pedisure or something of that ilk would help to optimize his growth.

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“Our Story” Brochure

This is the tri-fold brochure that I created about my boys for various organizations to use at their events to promote Autism Awareness. 😀

Corbin and Nolans Story Tri fold brochure-page-001

 

Corbin and Nolans Story Tri fold brochure-page-002

Organizations that currently use this brochure:

Rockin’ & Ridin’ for Autism

Autism Canada

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Don’t accept Autism…Embrace it!

A few years ago when I was in the process of getting C officially diagnosed I wrote the note below. I felt it was worth sharing now because I want people to understand that this attitude of “Don’t just accept but embrace Autism” is far from new for me personally and I truly hope this might inspire some of the parents that read this blog to contemplate their own true feelings about having an autistic child and perhaps looking at this child they were blessed with in a different light:

“Even though I see more than enough to believe that a diagnosis of high functioning autism is accurate, I hesitate to put it in writing because you don’t want to give him a label that he’ll be stuck with forever you know”

To this statement I rail “Why NOT?!?! Your so afraid to label him as you put it, as if by openly stating yes his brain works in a way that is different from the expected version of normal that this will hinder him. Well guess what, it won’t! Just because you don’t want it to be so his brain DOES work in a different way from many other people’s. But it’s not a negative thing to admit it, he sees the world in the most amazing way, free of social constraints that so many people just accept because “it’s just how it’s done” He questions everything, he’s NOT afraid to show people he loves how he feels, he doesn’t understand why he has to be away from people he loves, he gets so excited about everything that when you watch him, you can’t help but to get excited over little things too. A part of him will never lose that “innocence” of childhood, because he will always love unconditionally, he will always try his best to make those he cares about feel special, he will always believe that anything is possible if you try hard enough and I don’t ever wish for him to change!

He’s perfect just the way he is, and I see the amazing beauty of his true authentic self every time he finds out we’re going to have ice cream or go for a walk to the park or go swimming, or that a friend is coming over or any other million and one things that make him smile and jump up and down with elation every single day.

He loves more purely than anyone I know, and by giving him a label he’s not being hindered, he’s not being constrained or minimized, he’s being set free to explore the world on his own terms, he’ll be given the opportunity to meet with other fantastic people who see the world from a more open, literal perspective like he does. He’ll be given the opportunity to say openly “I don’t understand what you mean by that” and be able to tell those that matter to him that he sees the world differently.

One day perhaps enough people with this “terrible label” will have interacted with supposedly “normal” people and have shown them, just because it’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that it should continue that way.

He’s currently turning 7 years old in 2 months and last night he told me he was sad because all the wonderful times we’ve shared already will never come again. At not even 7 years old he understands the fragility of our existence better than many “normal” adults, when someone he cares about comes over he lights up and runs to hug them, that is a beautiful thing that so many of us are too scared to do: Openly without thought of rejection show love and affection, if only we all could be MORE like him!

So yes, please label him, and while you’re at it, understand that I see just how incredible he is, I am frequently brought to my knees in tears at the overwhelming sense of awe I feel just watching him, completely entranced by the light of his soul shining bright, humbled beyond measure that someone somewhere thought I should be lucky enough to be blessed with him as my son.

Label or not, he’s absolutely perfect to me, a wonderful example of how to live life honestly and openly without needless pretenses that only hurt or distance those around us.

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It’s not freedom if they can’t chose for themselves

I’ve read many things online lately that speak of the acceptance debate about Autism right now. Numerous of those articles say things like “It’s not true acceptance of the person if you try to teach them social skills, because that’s just trying to change them, not accept them the way they are” I disagree with that idea.

 

For me personally, I feel that teaching all the social skills as they are now called to my Autistic sons is akin to teaching spanish to my children who were born speaking english. Why would a parent do that? What could be gained from a child learning a second language? You guessed it, they could communicate effectively to gain what they needed from a vast array of situations with more people than if they only spoke one language. Does teaching them spanish imply that their first language and native tongue will always be less than the second one they were taught? NO it doesn’t. Does teaching them spanish mean that I will not listen to them or converse with them if they speak in english instead? NO it doesn’t. It means that should they decide at any given time that speaking in spanish would be more effective in a specific situation for them to obtain what they want or need that they can. Not that they have too, just that they have the option to express themselves in both languages, and that they can choose either option at their own discretion.

 

I think the difference between what I believe and the persons stating it’s not acceptance if you teach “NT” social skills to your autistic child is that I’m NOT saying they HAVE to use what I’ve taught them, I also plan on teaching them how to bake a cake from scratch, doesn’t mean once they’ve learnt how to do so that from morning till night they have to bake cakes non-stop. It just means if they want too they can, and I’m ALL about them having the freedom to choose, but it’s not freedom to choose if they aren’t allowed to explore all their options and then choose which one/s are best for them specifically. I also won’t teach them that they are wrong or less for their natural state or “native tongue” to continue with my original metaphor, just a simple statement of fact that it might be useful to also know this language in addition to your own.

When I teach a “social skill” I explain in detail what the general perception is, what my perception is, and encourage their own thoughts and feelings to be discussed about it. Such as when my eldest wanted to wear his transformer’s costume to the mall in May. I asked why first and he said because it’s fun to pretend he’s Optimus Prime and he loves how soft the costume is his Aunt and Uncle got him. I told him I agreed it is fun to pretend, and it is a very soft costume. I also told him it was perfectly fine with me. I did explain that some people might think it was strange that he was wearing a costume when it wasn’t close to Halloween and they might say something unkind or mean to him because of it. But that I knew how much fun it was to dress up and that as long as he understood that might happen I was proud to hold his hand in any mall while he wore any outfit he could find. He decided he’d wear it, and when there was a rude comment about it he replied “I’m wearing it so only my thoughts on my costume matter” and off we continued in the mall.

SO I did not force “NT” social skills, nor suggest that I felt he was wrong or bad for his choice. I reinforced my unconditional love and acceptance for him exactly as he is, but also told him the truth of how it might be perceived to allow him the choice of “did other’s perceptions of him matter to him in these circumstances” clearly that moment showed a definitive no, but at other times it might be a yes and that’s okay. Because it’s still allowing his feelings, thoughts and wants to ultimately dictate his actions, which is exactly as I think it should be.

But one of the things that I’ve read and seen in my own sons time and time again is that the inferred portion of any interaction is not always understood or picked up on. So it’s my job as their first teacher to teach them all of the hidden things they don’t automatically pick up on and then let them decide how they wish to proceed. That to me is the true definition of parenting, to help them understand everything and decide what is best for them personally from there.

I parent this way because I started with one goal in mind for all of my parenting choices “to ensure my children’s happiness” Then I simply work backwards from that goal by asking “What will make them happy?” or “Will ______ make them happy?” Sometimes I know, and sometimes I have to either ask them or watch and see. I then base my choices from that, because it’s not about what makes me happy, it’s about them. They are first, as they should be.

For example my youngest son has no interest in other children his own age, while I know that some people feel I should “encourage” read force him to interact with other children to make him more social and therefore more socially acceptable I don’t. I bring him to places with our family because he is an integral part of our family, but if his bliss is to spin the wheels of his toy cars and not play with other children his age that are around him I’m fine with that. Why, because he’s happy. And all I want is his happiness. I truly believe that both of their happiness, heck anyone’s is based on being able to have their wants and needs met on a consistent basis. So yes I’ll continue to speak in english with them, while I also teach them spanish so they can decide which is right for them to be heard clearly and their needs and wants to be met in the manners they wish for them to be.

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Bribing them to read with cookies ;-)

Last week C and I spoke of how N wasn’t welcomed at C’s first dance competition (that can be found here) C was so angry that his brother wasn’t accepted, and that by extension he too was not accepted for who he is and how his neuropathways work. So I had two choices, I could either validate his emotions or not. Of course I chose to do so because they ARE his emotions. No one should ever tell someone they can’t feel the way they do. Then what could have been the really tricky part came, how to help him deal with it in a positive manner.

We spoke about awareness, and acceptance. We spoke of how the two are not mutually inclusive of each other. We spoke of how when people don’t understand Autism that their perceptions are skewed in a negitive manner towards things like meltdowns.
That not everyone understands the difference between a meltdown that occurs due to the brain dealing with too much sensory information it can’t process (even in “fun” or “enjoyable” situations) and a tantrum that is a “want” based behaviour choice that occurs simply to produce a desired result from someone.

So we did what I often do when I’m bothered, we baked. Then we baked some more, and we continued to talk and bake for most of the evening. In total we made just over 200 cookies. But these were not ordinary cookies, oh no. These cookies were “secret agenda” cookies. Because they were green and purple puzzle peice shaped sugar cookies and were going to be given out with a business card that C and I designed about Autism.  Here is about half of them:

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On the front of the card it said “Life with Autism can still be sweet!”  and below that the one thing C says is most important to know about being Autistc “My brain works a bit differently, but my heart doesn’t. I still feel everything else that other people do, and I just want to be accepted as me, not as what you think a label makes me”  On the back I added a list of ingredients for the cookies and how to find their way here should they wish to learn more about what Autism means for us specifically.

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We then discussed who/where we were going to give out our plethora of cookies, and C said he’d like to give them out to the kids at his homeschool group, because “Me and N go there, so I want them to understand Autism doesn’t make me or N bad, just a bit different, but different can be good too.”

Well the cookie giving went very well from my point of view. There was one moment that one of the other homeschooling moms came up to me, told me how much she liked what we’d done, and thanked us for informing her and everyone there about Autism. I was floored, it was such a lovely reaction, and I treasure her support of our endevour greatly! The staff at the YMCA where we go for homeschool group were great about it as well, smiling, munching cookies and reading the cards attached. Many of them commenting to C how great it was that he had done this. Ahh yes another reason I adore the YMCA we go too, as if I needed more reasons with how fantastic every person that works there is! (Seriously, I have no idea how they managed to get that many awesome people to work in one building, but I may never move towns just so we can continue to go there specifically for so many of our fitness/social programs!)

C was so happy with how well it went that I have agreed to help him make another 200 cookies to give away to somewhere else. No clue where that is yet, as I’m letting him pick where he feels we should go with them. 🙂

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You may not care, but I do!

This past week-end was C’s dance competition and it was indescribable to watch. But there was a sad part to the first day of it. We brought N. Now I am fully thrilled that we brought N. I love both my boys and after going through the rough and rocky times that I did with C as a single mom I get that it’ll take time to help N get to where he can handle things like big dance competitions with lights and random people, loud music and noises and I’m sure a plethora of other sensory input that I am not cognitively aware of that N and C are. It wasn’t even N’s meltdowns that painted a bit of grey on our otherwise bright day. As I said, I get that it’s hard for him, and all I feel when he’s having a meltdown is first sorrow for him that he’s upset, followed quickly by determination to do my utmost to help him to deal with the sensory overload. It was the reaction that he received from one of the people working there that marred our moment. Now we didn’t keep N in the auditorium during his meltdowns, we’d bring him out to the foyer any time he started to get upset so that the dancers on stage and the judges were not distracted. Out in the foyer right after I went outside with N with my husband my mother was standing inside when this woman that worked there loudly proclaimed “Oh good, I don’t have to listen to that anymore!” My mother explained that that child was her grandson and that he was overwhelmed by everything due to sensory issues because he’s Autistic. The woman’s response “So what! I don’t care, I don’t want to have to listen to that all day!”

Awesome customer service! Now I was very upset when my mom told me and after much “discussing” with her she finally told me who had said it. Now I know myself and I know that if my mother has already received the reaction of “so what” than me directly discussing it with her would have only lead to me getting really loud and nasty. It’s true, I’ve got a temper, but I’m aware of it. SO because C still had an awards ceremony that day and I didn’t want to be banned from the place for it I went to the manager.

After I explained what happened, a horrified manager apologized profusely. He was sincere in his upset and promised to deal with the employee accordingly. About an hour later he came up to me again and apologized again, explaining that she would definitely be dealt with, and that their performance centre did not tolerate their employees to behave in such a terrible manner. Today while most of the staff was the same, that woman was nowhere to be found 😀 Plus we go back to the same centre for a different competition in just over a month, I expect said women to either be much less judgmental and rude or simply not there. I shall let you know dear readers which one happens.

 

 

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